RIDE REPORT- Addison County Adventure Ride #1 - Frog Hollow Bikes
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RIDE REPORT- Addison County Adventure Ride #1

July 16, 2019 | Featured,Ride Report

Sunday, July 14th we met up for the first of three Addison County Adventure Rides. This ride was hosted by Michael Lee, Emily Sunderman, and Twig Farm. It was a beautiful location and perfect weather for 12 riders to explore West Cornwall, Whiting, Orwell, and Shoreham, a part of the county I do not get to ride often.

About the Addison County Adventure Ride Series (ACARS)

This is the inaugural year of our gravel adventure ride series. Addison County has its fair share of gravel, Class 4, and forest service roads. I would say Addison County is a gravel mecca and I try to get out and explore as much as I can but, usually, I end up riding the same routes over and over again. Thanks to Michael for sharing his local routes and hidden treasures he rides everyday.

ACARS routes are designed for riders of all types from the hardcore hammerhead to the gravel curious and anyone in between. Since these are social rides, we will be offering 2 routes for each event with the idea that every rider complete their respective route in roughly the same time. Events are FREE and make sure to BYOB or favorite beverage for the after party.

Be aware that all rides are entirely self-navigation (more on that later) and be prepared to handle all mechanicals. Although groups tend to stick together, be prepared to be self-sufficient. You may find yourself in some remote areas that do not have cell phone coverage.

The Ride

Riders were greeted in the morning with donuts and coffee. A nice and welcome surprise! This gave everyone time for introductions and grab a little fuel for the ride. It was great to meet some new, fellow gravel riders.

At 9 am Michael gathered everyone together to discuss the routes (both long and short) and gave us a brief rundown of some of the landmarks and things to watch for during the ride. We planned to have a regroup for both routes at the Orwell General Store roughly 25 miles into the ride.

We rolled out about quarter after nine at a nice leisurely/social pace. Everyone took a moment to chat, catch-up, and settle in. The pace slowly increased as we road through the rolling farmland of Whiting before we hit our first Class 4 road. About 4 miles in we eased left and onto the first Class 4 road of the day. If you don’t know Vermont Class 4 roads, they are a series of primitive/ancient roads that Vermont has dedicated itself to mapping and preserving. Class 4 roads are unmaintained but can range from your average gravel road to unpassable hike a bike only. Our first Class 4 road today was of the former. We rolled quickly through the woods and out to the exit. For those on the ride that do not ride a lot of Class 4 roads, this was a nice gentle intro.

At mile 7 it was time for something a little more challenging. Sawmill Road would be our second Class 4 adventure which narrowed into a rutted, rocky, and swampy double-track quickly. This is were some mountain biking skills came in handy and our gravel bikes were put to the test for their off-road capabilities. After some dabs, hike a bike, and some laughs we all exited and regrouped to continue our tour.

The Class 4 trifecta would be complete just a couple of miles later as we turned off Fisher Road onto an unnamed Class 4 section that climbed into the woods and then went into a fairly technical (that’s gravel bike technical) descent. I lead the way, brakes howling, through the descent and into a pasture when some quick reflexes and bike handling finesse came in handy as I quickly dodged a large and fairly fresh pile of manure!

The pace and terrain allowed everyone to warm up through the first 10 miles, which was good, because once we hit Orwell the climbing would start and groups would get strung out. To my surprise, this part of the county IS NOT FLAT! Generally speaking, a hilly ride averages about 1,000ft+ of climbing per 10 miles which is what I expect on rides here in Lincoln, Starksboro, and Ripton. When you go into the valley rides tend to be about half to three-fourths of that amount of climbing.

At mile 14 we hit Knox Hill. Knox Hill is about 400 feet of vertical in about a mile and grades up to 20% (so says Strava). The group strung out quickly with the stronger climbers charging up the hill while I languished at the back. I always volunteer for sweeper on the big climbs because I am just a nice guy and not because I am slow on the climbs (ha!). It was nice to see everyone at the top of the hill waiting to re-group.

From there we rolled downhill for a couple of miles to our first B-group cut-off. I had been planning to ride the short course but I felt fairly fresh and decide to hang with the A-group. A few riders took the cut-off and everyone planned to meet at the Orwell General Store for a quick water and fuel break.

The A-group loop added another 5 miles including Needham Hill- 1.3 miles at 5%, with a maximum grade of 22.5%. From there we rode down for a quick break at the Orwell General Store. The great things about these events is the socializing, oftentimes I ride alone or with just a couple of people so, it’s nice to get out with a good, varied group of riders.

After a short stop for water and a snack everyone headed back out. One of the riders decided to drop at the store and I hung back for a moment to chat. At this point the A-group took off and the B-group settled back, more than happy to run a little more relaxed pace. The ride from this point featured another nice climb back into what I think was Shoreham and although, I was trailing the B-group by a couple of minutes after they had a navigation miscue, the B-group rolled up on me at about mile 30. We steadily worked our way through Shoreham to the second cut-off.

As the day wore on, the long climbs (which as I mentioned before) is never my strong suit began to take its toll. Which is something I need to work on before The Overland in late August. Before the planned cut-off, I fell behind the group by about 50 yards which was enough for a farm truck to get in between me and the group as they rolled through the route turn. I wasn’t going to be able to chase them down but I realized they should be running into the A-group coming the other way (which they did). I made my turn and started to head back to Twig Farm.

A Word About Self Navigation

All the ACARS rides are self-navigated. More and more official gravel rides and events are going to self-nav. This year VOMAR, Rasputitsa (I think), Rooted Vermont, IRR 8.0 (always has been self-nav), and the Forest Fondo have gone to self-navigation. This means that you will either have to have some type of GPS navigation, cue sheet, rely on the group, and/or have special directional superpowers to participate. GPS navigation is never a bad thing even when a course or route is marked. I have seen more than once course signs that have been removed or tampered with sending riders off for miles in the wrong direction. At a minimum GPS is a good back-up to a marked course and will insure you stay on course.

Since this year the Forest Fondo is going to self-navigation I wanted to test out some solutions prior to our event. On Sunday I used both a GPS bike computer (Wahoo Bolt) and Ride With GPS paired with a single wireless ear phone. Both of these have their advantages and dis-advantages but one of the most common complaints I have heard about the self-nav movement is “Now I need to fork over another $250+ to particpate!” I agree this is an unnecessary barrier to entry for the novice rider. So I was looking for a less costly solution and I think I found a great one. Requirements are 1. A Smartphone, which just about everyone has; 2. A free Ride With GPS account; 3. Wireless earphones, which I found at TJ Maxx for $29. That’s it! Here is a similar pair on FYE. Take advantage of their 20% off pop-up offer to match the price I found.

For $29 I got turn by turn directions whispered into my ear (I just wore one) keeping me on course the entire time. Even when other riders were not sure where to go, I always had a heads up for upcoming turns and directions. Pure awesome!

Now your event promoter has to do a few things on their end. If they are going the self nav route they should provide 1. An event invite sharing the route via Ride With GPS; 2. A course file that has full cue sheets for turn by turn directions; 3. (Promoter Extra Credit) Additional manual cues programed into the course for those turns that do not have names and course warnings and highlights.

With that you should be good to go. Problem solved. Keep in mind if the ride is long or in a remote area to download all the map information before hand and put your cellphone on airplane mode to save power.

Last Miles Back to Twig Farm

About 3 miles out, the A-Group caught me and the whole group came back together. We turned into a recently mown hayfield and Michael assured us it was more than ok with the owners to cut across.The hayfield was probably some of the smoothest riding we did all day! Once we negotiated an electric fence and exited the field we rolled about a half mile and into Twig Farm.

From there we hung out had a few ice cold beers, snacked on chips, and some incomparable Twig Farm cheese provided by Michael and Emily.

Join us for ACARS #2

Sunday, August 18th departing from Frog Hollow Bikes at 9 am to explore the gravel, Class 4, and forest roads of Middlebury, Goshen, Moosalamoo, and Ripton. There will be two routes to choose from, one 35 miles and the other 50 miles. Rides are estimated to take about 4 hours.

Would You Like to Ride This Route?

You can access turn by turn navigation on Ride With GPS. Click the course below.

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